College layoffs on the horizon

LAYOFFS NOW APPEAR all but inevitable at Northwest Community College.

  • Wed Jan 25th, 2012 9:00am
  • News

LAYOFFS NOW APPEAR all but inevitable at Northwest Community College to help balance its budget thanks to a notice it has provided to its unionized workers.

The notice, stemming from a section of the provincial labour relations code, states employers must give 60 days notice if they intend to make employee changes affecting a significant number of their workers.

While the notice went to the college’s unionized workers, as required by the labour relations code, its managers and other non-unionized workers have also been told of impending layoffs, says college human resources and payroll director Suzanne LeBlanc.

But she made it clear the college has not yet sent out any notices to employees or managers and that the intent of serving the notice is to find ways of softening any blows.

“What we’re intending to do is to work together, collaboratively, to see if we can mitigate any effects and how we can act in the most humane way possible,” said LeBlanc.

“We know layoffs will occur. We have no idea how many will occur,” she added. “We will be as fair as possible so people have sufficient time to prepare.”

The potential for layoffs and other cuts are growing out of a deficit which could now be between $1.6 million and $2 million by the time the college closes off its books for the year ending March 31.

At the end of March 2011, the deficit was $1.1 million but that figure grew to an estimated $1.3 million last fall and has continued to climb. College officials say revenue did not meet expectations and that costs continued to rise.

College managers are also preparing to launch a website design to gain ideas on how to save money.

LeBlanc was also clear in saying that job cuts would affect workers as well as managers.

“This is going to be something that is fair and is across the board,” LeBlanc said of any layoffs.

She did note that severance and other provisions for people losing their jobs are different in collective agreements than for exempt managers and administrators.

The latter have standard clauses providing for a base of two months notice expanding to nine months maximum based on length of service.

LeBlanc and other managers have been touring with college president Denise Henning the past two weeks speaking to employees and students.

While there are no details yet of what will happen, Henning also toured last fall, asking northwestern residents what kind of educational programming they wanted the college to provide.

That will more than likely lead to the college narrowing its education programming focus and aligning it with its reduced budget reality.

Local BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) Doug Dykens acknowledged the filing of the 60-day notice.

“We’re pleased with the way the college has been inclusive with our union, but we are concerned any time the word layoffs is used,” he said.

At the last official count, the college had approximately 600 employees working in the equivalent of 276 full time positions.

There are just over 500 employees who are members of two unions, the BCGEU and a component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and 35 people filling 25 managerial or union-exempt positions. Also listed on the payroll are 65 students or other non-union employees who work very part time hours amounting  to 1.74 full time equivalent positions.